Edwards runs second summer school despite protests
The Cambridge College Programme run by Taryn Edwards, returned to Cambridge this summer despite causing outrage last year when it failed to pay students.
by Natasha Marchant
Friday 28th September 2012, 11:18 BST
As a mark of solidarity, CUSU unanimously passed a motion in February this year requesting that “no conferencing offices in Cambridge University [are to] accept Taryn Edwards or bookings for CCP until all outstanding payments are resolved.” Although CUSU arguably don’t have the power to enforce this motion, last year’s President Gerard Tully informed all colleges in Cambridge of the resolves, and it was hoped that the measure would act as a sufficient deterrent for future years.
However, when CCP booked under a different name, Churchill agreed to accommodate Taryn Edwards and the American students for the duration of their stay – a decision they were forced to rethink when they realised at the last minute that the required rooms were not available.
As a result, the booking was circulated amongst the other colleges which take conference bookings, and Robinson accepted the summer school, allegedly unaware at first of whom they were admitting. By the time Robinson realised their mistake, the college decided that it was too late to cancel the booking at such late notice, given that payment had already been made and that many of the young students involved had already left the States for this country. The decision does not appear to have been unanimously supported by staff at Robinson, with the porters in particularly being forced to deal with regular break-ins from students attempting to gain access to Taryn Edwards in order to claim their wages from her.
For some students, Edwards’ return has resulted in them being successfully paid, as several marched into Robinson and forcibly walked her to the bank, making her empty her UK account in order to pay them back. This was, however, little consolation for most of the students, many of whom had graduated or were away from Cambridge for the summer, and so were unable to join their peers in reclaiming their money. To make matters worse, an employment tribunal taken out against Edwards last year is proving to be largely useless, as she has limited assets in the UK and the tribunal is not enforceable outside of this country.
However, some money is currently being reclaimed, after Robinson, in an effort to rectify the mistake made in admitting her in the first place, began acting as a negotiator between Edwards and CUSU (the latter acting on behalf of the unpaid students). Although it is difficult to access Edwards’ assets in the USA when she is in the UK, it was agreed that some money could be recouped for students out of the deposit she paid to Robinson before arriving in Cambridge. However, this amount is still well below the estimated total of around £50,000 she is thought to owe.
Nor does Edwards only owe money to students. It is alleged that she is in debt to all but two colleges – Girton and Newnham – in addition to boathouses, university facilities and other agents who provided services during the running of the programme. This is particularly galling considering the luxurious nature of the CCP, which charges a minimum of $6,200 for its three-week programme and which, according to its web site, boasts “a fleet of airconditioned, luxury coaches for the exclusive use on all excursions [sic]”.
Additional options offered include PGA Golf, for a fee of $300, a review of the American SAT exam for $500, or Polo instruction for $900. However students on the CCP were expressly forbidden from speaking or interacting with anyone not on the course, in an apparent attempt to prevent the news spreading in the States, which makes it obvious that not everything was going on as smoothly as Edwards was attempting to portray.
When CUSU reconvenes for its first meeting of Michaelmas term, the issue of how to proceed next is expected to be high on its agenda. Students still feel angry and betrayed at the lack of support from the University as a whole. Due to the legal difficulties involved, and Edwards’ unhelpfulness, it seems that the matter will not be laid to rest any time soon.